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Agroecology and industrial farming: leveling the playing field

Driving across the United States, the landscape of genetically modified corn stretches for hundreds of miles. Same crop, same variety, same methods, even the same seed company dominates the heartland–visual proof of the dominance of industrial agriculture. (Most of this vast sea of corn is used for animal feed or ethanol production rather than for human consumption…) The same lack of biological diversity can be found in the industrial tomato fields of Florida, the vegetable fields of California and the cotton fields of the southern United States, with soy, rice, wheat and livestock also following the same pattern. The negative consequences of industrial agriculture–from climate change to antibiotic-resistant bacteria–have been extensively documented. Agroecology, the “cleaner and greener” alternative to industrial agriculture, has also been extensively documented. Contrary to popular belief (and to a lot of industrial propaganda) agroecological methods can be just as productive as industrial methods. While a few techniques have crossed the agroecological-industrial divide, they rarely challenge the monoculture mantra. Most large-scale farmers in the United States are locked-in to the markets of industrial agriculture and are reluctant to make sweeping changes to their farming system. Over the last century chemicals and big machinery have replaced millions of workers. […]